The Dallas Cowboys haven't had any new inductees to the franchise's Ring of Honor since former executive Gil Brandt in 2018. They also haven't honored any of the players whose careers all or mostly occurred after the year 2000. How soon will modern-era greats like Tony Romo, DeMarcus Ware, and Jason Witten see their names added to the exclusive list?
First established in 1975 with the induction of Bob Lilly, the Ring of Honor has been the Cowboys' primary way of recognizing the organization's greatest contributors. It currently has 22 members; 19 former players, two executives, and one coach.
There are still major figures from past eras of Dallas football with cases for the Ring. Some of you have been waiting a long time for the likes of Harvey Martin, Everson Walls, or Ed “Too Tall” Jones to get in. Jimmy Johnson, Deion Sanders, or perhaps Daryl “Moose” Johnston come to mind from the 1990s.
A few years ago, I wrote about Dexter Coakley as a great player from a bad era who perhaps deserved the honor.
But now that we're well in the middle of the latest era for the Cowboys with Dak Prescott, Zack Martin, and others as the established stars and leaders, is it time to start paying tribute to their most recent predecessors?
Tony Romo, the franchise's overall statistical leader for passing and one of its most beloved players, hasn't played since 2016. Same for DeMarcus Ware, Dallas' all-time leader in sacks. And Jason Witten, who's played more games for the Cowboys than anyone else and is one of the best tight ends in NFL history, appears to be retiring for good this offseason.
There's no question that these three deserve to join the Ring of Honor at some point. The question is how long they'll have to wait, but history suggests it may come sooner than later.
In 2005, just months after Emmitt Smith retired from the NFL following a brief stint with the Arizona Cardinals, the Cowboys inducted Smith, Troy Aikman, and Michael Irvin together into the Ring. Famously known as “The Triplets,” they joined the exclusive club as a unit just like they'd played.
While Romo, Ware, and Witten were never branded as a trio the way those guys were, their careers overlapped for a decade from 2005-2014. DeMarcus joined the team that year as a 1st-round pick with Witten and Romo having already been around for a few seasons. It was 2006 when Tony finally became the starting quarterback.
In 2015, Ware became a salary cap casualty and went off to play more seasons in Denver. But for nine seasons, these three men were the Cowboys' leaders and among the best to ever do it at their positions.
Now that Witten's retiring, could we soon see a repeat of that 2005 Ring of Honor ceremony? Just like Troy, Emmitt, and Michael's inductions marked the beginning of honoring a more recent era of Cowboys football, could the same happen with Tony, DeMarcus, and Jason?
Opening the door to the 2000s doesn't have to close the door on past eras. Drew Pearson didn't get inducted until 2011 and was added alongside Larry Allen and Charles Haley. So those players you loved from the 60s-90s will never stop being on the table.
But if the Ring of Honor is truly about recognizing the best of the best then guys like Tony Romo, DeMarcus Ware, and Jason Witten deserve to do a little leapfrogging. As we saw with Emmitt in 2005, there's no five-year wait like the Pro Football Hall of Fame. These players are as deserving as any others and I expect we'll be hearing about their inductions in the very near future.